CB2 Rejects ‘Mayor’s SoHo Rezoning Plan’ with Scathing Resolution
Last night, Community Board 2 overwhelmingly voted to reject what it called the “Mayor’s Plan” to rezone “SoHo, NoHo and Chinatown.”
In a bold lead statement, CB2’s SoHo NoHo Working Group released a resolution that rejected the rezoning proposal as follows: “The proposed SoHo, NoHo and Chinatown rezoning fails to achieve affordable housing goals and instead incentives office, dormitory and large retail development and will displace existing rent-protected and low-income residents.”
Clearly, the impact the City’s current rezoning would have on neighboring Chinatown was not lost on the advisory body as it pointedly referred to what the City’s SoHo NoHo Neighborhood Plan as the SoHo, NoHo and Chinatown rezoning throughout the detailed, nine page resolution. The word “dormitory” in the opening salvo was a thinly veiled indictment of NYU as the rezoning would grant the always-growing institution entry into the historic district without producing any of the affordable housing the de Blasio administration claims its Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program would create, since commercial and institutional developments are not subject to MIH regulations.
CB2’s scathing critique also took aim at the lame-duck mayor, claiming that,”the rushed rezoning plan is designed to coincide with the last days of Mayor de Blasio’s administration and prevents input from the incoming mayor and city council.”
But it’s not just the Mayor who is in a lame-duck session during this controversial rezoning, Gale Brewer will be leaving her Borough President post to take a city council seat in District 6. Moreover, Margaret Chin, who has the most influence over the massive upzoning plan, is term-limited. It’s important to note here that Christopher Marte, who won 60-percent of the Democratic Primary vote, has been opposed to the City’s rezoning plan since it began. In fact, all but one of the candidates that were vying to replace Margaret Chin came out opposed to the current plan as is, including Chin’s former Chief of Staff Gigi Li. Denny Salas was the lone candidate that came out in favor of the upzoning and received the least amount of votes.
In challenging the “Mayor’s Plan” as an affordable housing endeavor, CB2’s resolution went so far as to state that “the City admits that there is zero guarantee that any affordable housing units will be created as a result of the proposed plan.”
Speaking at last night’s CB2 full board meeting, Andrew Berman of Village Preservation said that “this rezoning is not about affordable housing, there are so many loopholes that it is designed not to have any affordable housing.” Berman then called on the City to present a deeper and broader affordable housing plan that would produce, 50-, 70- or even 100-percent affordable housing complexes in the area.
Berman’s claims are backed up by CB2’s resolution which also stated that the mayor’s plan would not only fail to create new affordable housing, but also negatively impact existing affordable units resulting in a net loss of affordable housing throughout the rezoning area, CB2’s resolution outlines how increases in building density and rising property values would incentivize the demolition of low-rise building in SoHo, NoHo, Chinatown and Little Italy.
The resolution also took exception with the City’s theory that zoning changes would benefit small business. CB2 also maintained that the rezoning proposal would “squeeze out small retail stores and negatively impact quality of life for current and future residents.”
Those who spoke in favor of the Mayor’s plan to upzone the historic districts and the surrounding area continued to attack residents and community board members for being anti-growth, fearing change, and being self-interested preservationists who are opposed to new housing and equality. One speaker went so far as to claim that CB2’s resolution proved they were operating in “bad faith.”
However, the resolution and the speakers opposing the plan made it clear that there was now, as always, a wide, open middle road to take in terms of updating the zoning text that governs the historic manufacturing districts and live/work lofts residences. CB2’s resolution also made it clear that none of the initial community input during the Envision SoHo/NoHo Process, which started in 2019, was represented in final rezoning plan the City set forth. And it’s that community voice that the Community Board has a charter mandate to protect.
The impact Community Board 2’s resolution will have on the rezoning effort remains to be seen. last night’s final vote by the full board concludes the first part of the City’s Uniform Land Use Process (ULURP) The next step is Borough President Gale Brewer office, who while speaking at the meeting last night, continued to maintain she has not made a decision on the rezoning, and also stated that her office will hold its own public hearing in August.